Time seemed to fly leading up to track day. To save getting up at 5am, our video producer, Anthony Plascencia and I drove out Friday afternoon. It was like a road trip to Disneyland for Anthony being this was his first track event. Lancaster is where the â€śpreferredâ€? lodging for Willow Springs Raceway is located. We end up at Best Western of Antelope Valley, a â€śquaintâ€? hotel. No complaints here as the room came with 2 free drinks per person and a complimentary hot breakfast in the morning. The highlight of our stay was the priceless lounge singer, but thatâ€™s a whole other story in itself!
After a good nightâ€™s sleep and a stomach full of grub, Anthony and I jumped in the Goat and headed 17 miles North up Hwy 14 to the small town of Rosamond. When driving out to the raceway you can actually see Horse Thief Mile track on the foothills. This is one of 7 tracks at Willow Springs Park. As we turned down to the track I noticed the Playboy Racing Teamâ€™s 18-wheeler parked out in front of the main gate. The whole park was alive with a nationalâ€™s race on the Kart track, hot laps on the big track and the Porsche club over on the Streets of Willow.
BDX 1 and 2 by the BDX Mobil Training trailer
We made our way through the pits to where Allan and his team were holding the driverâ€™s meeting. This is where they teach the driverâ€™s some excellent insights on proper driving style and insides on what â€ślinesâ€? to take on the track. Many of the drivers have never stepped foot on a closed course until today. After the meeting the driverâ€™s are addressed one at a time by the instructors on safety, and rules of the track. Such things as floor mats and cd cases are removed as well as spare tires and any other potentially unsecured items in the vehicle. You wouldnâ€™t think of an Ipod as dangerous until it flies out of its cradle at 126mph!
Vern Alstot of Ventura prepping his new GT500 for the track
Upon walking through the pit I came across a beautiful red and white striped 2007 Shelby GT500. As I walked up I was greeted by a very nice and proud owner, Vern Alstot. Talk about a cool guy, before even introducing myself he offered a run around the track, how could I refuse. I shared that I was with The Star and asked if we could follow his experience throughout the day. He gladly accepted and was quick to mention he worked with us before, sending the first shots of the recent Day Fire.
I quickly learned that Vern is actually a Battalion Chief for Ventura City Fire Department and a fellow gearhead. â€śI never been out here so itâ€™s a new experience for meâ€? said Vern as he taped off the nose of his car for protection and decreased drag. Vern explained that he was waiting for the new Mustang GT when he found out that the GT500 was being released. â€śWhat made you want the GT500?â€? I asked to which he explained â€śI have a â€ś67 (Mustang) convertible at home, Iâ€™m a big fanâ€?. Come to find out that Vern waited 14 months for his new toy and started out 14th on the list but ended up being the 4th to get one.
Vern's 'Stang taped up and ready to run
Mid-way through the morning most of the 13 drivers really started getting the hang of the track. We followed Vernâ€™s progress as he built up his speed and line on the 2.5 mile course. Between runs Chris, one of Barberâ€™s instructors, approached Vern and asked if he was ready for his â€śone-on-oneâ€?. We installed a chase cam in Vernâ€™s car to follow the action as he drove with the instructor. As Vern started out on his lap all was well until turn 5. All of a sudden we see a large cloud of dust and cars slowing at â€śthe rabbit earâ€?. The back-end came around and Vern spun off turn 5, luckily not hitting anything or anyone.
BDX's Dawn Ferguson looks on as tire temp. is taken after "the spin out"
As Vern came back into the pits we saw how dusty things got on the hill. Vern seemed a little shaken but upon finding only minimum damage done, he was very thankful to be alive. What does one say to a first-timer that spins out? â€śThatâ€™s why you brought it to the trackâ€? was the only thing I could think of. Vern was quick to agree that what better place to learn the limits of the car than a day at the track. After a quick cleaning, Vern was back out on the track ready to prove that the best thing to when you fall of a horse is get right back on. All the drivers felt as though they took a lot from the day and agreed the training and the track time was a tremendous help. The day was simply summed up when Allan asked a client â€świll you be back?â€? at which point a loud response of â€śheck yeah!â€? was blurted out.
Check out our interview with Vern as well as the chase cam car footage in our video gallery: http://gallery.venturacountystar.com/video.cfm?VideoID=186
To find out more about Willow Springs visit:
Want to learn your cars limits? join the guys at BDX:
Looking for a track day? Go with the guys at Open Track Racing: